Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai Attack Investigators Have Lashkar e Taiba Leader's Number: Literally

Lashkar e Taiba senior leader Yusuf Muzammil and four other Lashkar leaders were behind the Mumbai attack. The terrorists left a satellite phone on a fishing trawler they'd hijacked. Those phones don't just receive and transmit data: they store it. Including phone numbers.

If the terrorists were trying to cover their tracks, this was a big mistake.

Lashkar e Taiba, LeT, Lashkar-e-Taiba: The All Spell Trouble

I've written about Lashkar e Taiba before. (If that's not the way you spell it in English, I'm not surprised: It's spelled quite a few different ways, with and without hyphens. Just to make things more interesting, it's sometimes called LeT.)

Lashkar e Taiba isn't a nice outfit. It's
  • On the American State Department's list of terrorist organizations
  • Supported by Al Qaeda
  • Financed by
    • Pakistani communities in the United Kingdom and the Persian Gulf region
    • Islamic Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
  • Been banned in Pakistan since 2002
It's still operating in Pakistan, though. As I understand the situation, Pakistan's civilian government banned Lashkar e Taiba in 2002 after the American government leaned on them. But, since Pakistan's civilian government isn't all that effective, LeT didn't have to pay too much attention.

Besides, Pakistan's ISI (Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence) is a real-world analog to what some fringe liberals, conservatives, and conspiracy theorists think the CIA is: a rogue intelligence agency, acting as a state within a state, with it's own sources of revenue and limited interest in what Pakistan's government and military want. There's a pretty good writeup on LeT at GlobalSecurity.org.

Making things more complicated, Lashkar e Taiba wants India out of Kashmir. So it's very easy to assume that Pakistan's leaders, official and otherwise, haven't been too interested in controlling the LeT.

But, since LeT's goal is to kick India out of Kashmir, there's the suspicion that Pakistan's government, that wants Kashmir, pretends it doesn't notice LeT installations in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Government Caught Between Islamic Groups, India, and America

I wouldn't want to be where Pakistan's civilian leaders are right now: India's sent them a list of about 20 people, including Yusuf Muzammil. India wants them delivered to India.

Pakistan's government is saying that they'll cooperate after they've studied the list, and determined if there's evidence against the people. Which is as it should be. Due process is a good way of avoiding stupid mistakes.

However, if Pakistan doesn't hand over the (alleged) terrorists, India won't be happy. Neither will America. America's government has said that Pakistan's leaders should play nice. That's a paraphrase, of course. (The Hindu (December 3, 2008))
On One Side: America and India
I doubt that Pakistan's rational leaders want another showdown with India. They've been trying to patch up relations with India, and could profit from trade - and from giving the appearance of being a responsible nation.

I think that some have the impression that America is shielding Pakistan's leaders, and so indirectly responsible for the Mumbai attack. A comment in a BlogCatalog discussion thread read (in part) "...The problem is people in power their are actually supporting the terrorism behind the curtain.And Pakistan is friend of U.S. in war against terrorism...." I can understand the argument: but I'm not at all sure that I agree. Particularly after one of its leaders gave orders to shoot Americans if they tried to deal with terrorists inside Pakistan. When America didn't respond well to that threat, Pakistan's government said that the order hadn't been given, and that nobody issued it.

The point is that, although Pakistan is a "friend" of America, so is India. And, unlike Pakistan, India is a stable democracy.
On the Other Side: Islamic Groups
A Wall Street Journal article pointed out that many Islamic groups wouldn't be happy if Pakistan's civilian government crossed the ISI and handed terrorists over to India.

As a Pakistan Leader Who Wants to Live, It's a Hard Choice

I can't envy whoever is deciding whether or not to cooperate with India's request (demand?).

On the one hand, India has a legitimate grievance with these people, and legal reasons for wanting them. And, America has made it clear that terrorists shouldn't be shielded.

Give terrorists safe haven, and Pakistan will look bad.

On the other hand, these terrorists have been 'defending Islam' against a Hindu nation. Not all Islamic groups do things the old-fashioned way, but some have established a reputation for killing people whose actions they don't approve of. Or, killing the families of those responsible. Sometimes both.

Even the most selfless public servant couldn't ignore that sort of persuasion.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.